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Storyboard18: Do you need a degree or just YouTube to be a marketer today?

Marketers and agency professionals are increasingly using online avenues and channels to master marketing skills and to upskill. This is slowly changing the value placed on marketing knowledge and degrees obtained in traditional ways

Published: Dec 14, 2021 05:44:45 PM IST
Updated: Dec 14, 2021 06:47:01 PM IST

Storyboard18: Do you need a degree or just YouTube to be a marketer today?A shifting view of online, formal and informal education is also changing the way some companies hire people, looking not just at degrees and colleges to make hiring decisions.
Image: Shutterstock

Akash Malhotra (name changed), a 19-year-old Mumbai-based commerce student was curious to find out how his Amazon searches appear as ads when he is on YouTube or while scrolling on Instagram. When he looked for it on Google, he discovered digital marketing. Soon, Malhotra found himself watching hours of content on digital marketing.

Algorithms led him to Vivek Bindra’s introductory video on digital marketing. The Hindi tutorial topped Malhotra’s search for ‘how to learn digital marketing on YouTube’.

Bindra is a leadership consultant, an inspirational business coach, and CEO of homegrown edtech company Bada Business. He has over 18 million subscribers on his channel that targets small business owners. It claims to be the world’s top most subscribed YouTube channel on entrepreneurship and leadership development.

Malhotra now spends about a couple of hours every day on YouTube, watching videos about digital marketing. His parents aren’t aware of his new pursuit and interest in the subject. They’d rather have him focus his attention on a formal chartered accountancy course that they paid for.

But it’s not just young students aspiring to be marketers or to get into adjacent fields who are increasingly turning to online channels to master marketing.

The rise of generalist-specialists

Ronnie Screwvala-led edtech company upGrad has seen a growth of 48 percent for their digital marketing courses in January, February, March (JFM) 2021 as compared to 2020.

The growth remained on an upward trajectory and upGrad’s marketing programs had more women (54 percent) than men. In September, the company also released an ad with a woman protagonist who fast-forwarded her career through an online course.

Arjun Mohan, CEO - India, upGrad, tells Storyboard18, in today’s world it’s important to be a “generalist and specialist. Specialising in subjects gives learners ample opportunities to expand their thinking, thus enabling them to make their skills indispensable.” He explains, “You could be a data analyst but what would make you a high-grade employee is your unique ability to interpret the data differently and then apply it in a manner that increases the company’s efficiency and productivity”.

The pandemic has turned homes into classrooms, not only for young students but also for career professionals who want to learn new skills, hone existing ones, and stay up-to-date.

Abhishek Gupta, chief marketing officer, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, sees this as a refreshing trend. “Compared to 10-15 years ago, there is much more formal education available now in marketing and advertising. It is also important to upskill to stay with the times,” he says. The company has also started recognising employees who participate in company-led training initiatives during the year.

Education and knowledge, not the same thing

A shifting view of online, formal and informal education is also changing the way some companies hire people, looking not just at degrees and colleges to make hiring decisions.

“This is not to say that educational qualifications don’t matter,” says Gupta, “But for us, business know-how also matters equally.” The company is attempting to set up a multi-functional panel of interviewers. “We believe this will help us evaluate a candidate more holistically and not only on the parameter of education or experience,” he explains.

This trend is catching up in the agency side of the business too. Holistic marketing solutions agency Schbang is heavily investing in upskilling for employees. Through Schbang Academy, the agency is facilitating training across the organisation on everything from social media marketing and e-commerce to content writing.

From a talent requirement point of view, Pranav Krishnan, lead-culture and communications, Schbang, believes it doesn’t really matter if a candidate has learned from a top-rated university or by scrolling YouTube. The company wants talent that can “implement the theory into a practical environment,” he says.

Agencies like Schbang are also looking at a culture fit and candidates who want to keep upgrading their skill sets and share their experience with their teams, says Krishnan.

Basically, you don’t need a degree in marketing from a B-school or the University of YouTube, if you can show aptitude and appetite to learn and share knowledge.

University of YouTube?

Advertising veteran Ambi Parameswaran, who studied chemical engineering at IIT Madras and graduated from IIM Calcutta, started his career at Rediffusion, at a time when ad agencies attracted talent from the country’s top B-schools. In the last three decades, he has worked with top brands in the country and ran FCB Ulka Advertising. Parameswaran, who is now the founder of Brand-Building.com, has also taken several digital marketing courses in recent years. He also mentors aspiring marketers and students who want to work in advertising agencies.

While the education, knowledge and experience equation is changing, Parameswaran says that the bottom-line is, in India, there is a certain cache attached to doing a course from a reputed college.

Despite the post-pandemic acceleration of change in education, correspondence and online degrees still have an image issue in society. But, as more people and companies start warming up to the idea of hybrid systems, the emphasis and value placed on sources of education and degrees will change. Because at the end of the day it’s not what you have got but what you bring to the table that matters.

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